Official Review: Haskell Himself by Gary Seigel

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inaramid
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Official Review: Haskell Himself by Gary Seigel

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[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Haskell Himself" by Gary Seigel.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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I have never rooted for any fictional character quite as much I did for Haskell Hodge, the hilarious, dorky, slightly histrionic protagonist and narrator of Gary Seigel’s novel, Haskell Himself. As most coming-of-age stories go, 16-year-old Haskell is living a perfectly predictable life when circumstances forced him out of his comfort zone. His mother has decided to accompany her boyfriend to Europe, and poor Haskell is packed off to California to finish his senior year in high school. As a New York-raised drama geek who once dressed up as Liberace for a recital, Haskell doubts he can ever fit in. Not in the conservative neighborhood of Encino. Not with the Teitlebaums, the family he’s supposed to live with. And certainly not in the local high school, where a kid like him is sure to get bullied. To add to his troubles, on his last night in New York, Haskell makes a startling discovery. He kissed a boy. And he liked it.

Seigel’s writing is delightfully immersive, both in the depiction of Haskell’s inner workings and the descriptions of the tangible world around him. Haskell’s internal monologues are always good for a laugh, and the awkward offshoots of his search for his sexual identity are so painfully real that I found myself cringing in secondhand embarrassment. There’s an endearing quality to Haskell’s hopeless infatuation with a boy in his new school. And his determination to “drive the homo out of him” — by dating a weird girl who’s fluent in Pig Latin — manages to be both humorous and heartbreaking. Add the fact that the story is set in the 1960s, when homophobia is very rampant and corrosive, and we have a narrative that also speaks to the social issues of the time.

Seigel does a stellar job of creating a vivid sense of time and place. The book is packed with pop culture references, from music to films to TV shows, that anyone who grew up in the ‘60s can bathe in nostalgia. There are also some subtle touches here and there that harken back to this period. For instance, who knew inflight smoking was a thing back then? I liked how these elements enriched the story without coming across as mere snippets of trivia.

Though Seigel kept the story flowing at a nice pace for the most part of the book, the plot ended up being a bit uneven. The climax didn’t exactly feel like the turning point that it should be, and the chapters leading to the conclusion seemed rushed. I was hoping that the subplot about Haskell auditioning for a movie would be explored some more in light of the LGBT movement at the time. I was also disappointed that Haskell’s relationship with another character progressed from flirting to sex in the span of just one chapter. I wished the romantic subplot had a more solid build-up, and I really wished the story ended just as strongly as it began.

As far as editing is concerned, there are some errors in the text (mostly missing punctuation marks and spelling inconsistencies) but nothing too severe or distracting. There are profanities and LGBT-related slurs throughout the book, uttered mostly by the teen characters themselves. Sexual scenarios are also present, and although not gratuitous or explicit, readers uncomfortable with same-sex romance might have to give this one a pass.

Despite the negatives, Haskell Himself deserves at least 3 out of 4 stars for its lovable protagonist, its vibrant setting, and its broader message of gender equality. I recommend this to young adults who are also exploring their own identities, sexual or otherwise.

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Gathoni1991
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Post by Gathoni1991 »

First of, nice review. Secondly, I loved the plot of the novel, so definitely this is a must read for me. I feel like Haskell is a character that I will love. If you would love a similar read, I recommend Randy Love... At Your Service by Shay Carter.

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Post by Stephanie Elizabeth »

This sounds like a great premise for a coming-of-age book; I could totally see it being a movie! Thanks for the great review!

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Post by Miller56 »

Thanks for the review. Teen life is difficult enough without throwing in moving to a new place and finding out you like the same sex. This book sounds like a funny look at some difficult teen situations.

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Post by Ever_Reading »

Haskell sounds like an intriguing and likable character. It's unfortunate the plot fell short in some places. This is not my kind of book, so I'll pass. Superb review!
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Post by inaramid »

Gathoni1991 wrote:
17 Dec 2019, 11:05
First of, nice review. Secondly, I loved the plot of the novel, so definitely this is a must read for me. I feel like Haskell is a character that I will love. If you would love a similar read, I recommend Randy Love... At Your Service by Shay Carter.
Thank you so much! The protagonist is very easy to root for. I haven't read Randy Love but I've seen both positive and negative reviews. Still weighing whether it's worth the read, but thank you for the recommendation!

Stephanie Elizabeth wrote:
17 Dec 2019, 11:16
This sounds like a great premise for a coming-of-age book; I could totally see it being a movie! Thanks for the great review!
It does remind me a little of Kurt's storyline in Glee or Simon in Love Simon.

Miller56 wrote:
17 Dec 2019, 11:59
Thanks for the review. Teen life is difficult enough without throwing in moving to a new place and finding out you like the same sex. This book sounds like a funny look at some difficult teen situations.
There's definitely a lot of awkwardness and a lot of humor fitting for a coming-of-age story.
Ever_Reading wrote:
18 Dec 2019, 02:53
Haskell sounds like an intriguing and likable character. It's unfortunate the plot fell short in some places. This is not my kind of book, so I'll pass. Superb review!
Perhaps a sequel will address the book's shortcomings. Thank you for dropping by!

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Post by Mbrooks2518 »

Haskell sounds like a very lovable character. Great review!

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inaramid
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Post by inaramid »

Mbrooks2518 wrote:
06 Jan 2020, 08:39
Haskell sounds like a very lovable character. Great review!
Very! Thanks for dropping by.

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Post by SomeoneInTheWorld »

Seems like a beatiful book that manages to be funny and engaging and also serious and touching at the same time. Thanks for the great review!

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inaramid
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Post by inaramid »

SomeoneInTheWorld wrote:
07 Jan 2020, 16:33
Seems like a beatiful book that manages to be funny and engaging and also serious and touching at the same time. Thanks for the great review!
Amen! Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by Nisha Ward »

I'm both amused and completely unsurprised that Haskell would date a girl after kissing a boy in the 60s. It seems part and parcel for coming out stories and Chester being a likable character makes it a bit sad that he feels like he has to do that. That being said, this sounds like an absolutely delightful book.
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